Joining a crowd, NY Times promoted McCain's Iraq proposal without discussing likely unfeasibility or political motivation


A December 11 New York Times article described as "muscular" Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) push for "an immediate increase in American forces [in Iraq] to try to bring order to Baghdad and crush the insurgency" and stated that McCain rejected the Iraq Study Group's (ISG) recommendations "because they did not present a strategy for victory." The article also quoted Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, who described McCain's position as "articulating the strategy for victory in Iraq." But like many other recent news reports, the article did not discuss the feasibility of the senator's proposed strategy or the possible political benefit to McCain of pushing a plan that he claims would bring "victory" but is unlikely to be put to the test.

By contrast, as Media Matters for America has noted, National Public Radio senior news analyst Cokie Roberts stated on the November 20 edition of NPR's Morning Edition that the military is unlikely to adopt McCain's proposal to send thousands more U.S. troops to Iraq because, she said, referring to a comment by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the "Army is so depleted." For that reason, she stated, McCain's plan is "a somewhat convenient position, because he can always say, 'No one tried to win the war the way that I suggested to win it.' " Roberts added: "I think that this is a position that is useful for Senator McCain."

Media Matters has documented repeated examples of media figures who have promoted McCain's Iraq plan but have not mentioned any of the issues involved in actually carrying out his proposed strategy.

From the December 11 New York Times article headlined "Report on Iraq Exposes a Divide Within the G.O.P.":

Senator John McCain of Arizona, a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, rejected the major recommendations of the group because they did not present a formula for victory. Mr. McCain, hoping to claim the Republican mantle on national security issues, has staked out a muscular position on Iraq, calling for an immediate increase in American forces to try to bring order to Baghdad and crush the insurgency.


Bill Kristol, the neoconservative editor of The Weekly Standard and a leading advocate of the decision to invade Iraq, said: "In the real world, the [ISG co-chairman James] Baker report is now the vehicle for those Republicans who want to extricate themselves from Iraq, while McCain is articulating the strategy for victory in Iraq. Bush will have to choose, and the Republican Party will have to choose, in the very near future between Baker and McCain."

The choice Mr. Kristol is describing reflects a longstanding Republican schism over policy and culture between ideological neoconservatives and so-called realists. Through most of the Bush administration, the neoconservatives' idea of using American military power to advance democracy around the world prevailed, pushed along by Vice President Dick Cheney and Mr. [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
The New York Times
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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